Patrick and Adele dream of having children of their own, yet their biological clock is ticking and here comes her solution: she picks up a homeless boy in Lidl (of all places) and brings him home, to Patrick’s great dismay. Moreover, is this boy Russian, Chinese or Congolese? Who exactly is Yuri?
A performance of rare intimacy that compels us to recognise our conscious prejudices.
It is not often that a show has me captivated so much before it has barely begun. From the quaint, yet amiable Adele greeting the audience with a mixture of Welsh and heavily-accented English, humorously calling the latter her ‘mother tongue’, Yuri – in spite of its foreign sounding title – immediately conveys a sense of things close to home, and already an invocation of the network of topical issues set to come. It is a play that intricately touches upon national politics and its consequent mediations in our daily lives – particularly when the dreaded Other is forcefully installed in your living room. This production succeeds in soliciting an intellectual response to uncomfortable truths, with a performance of rare intimacy that compels us to recognise our conscious prejudices from which much of the hilarity stems.
Much of the play’s energy is invested in the incongruity of this new family unit as the couple seeks to understand where each other stands with regard to Yuri, leading to an unpredictable array of emotional scenes that fully showcases the superb range of the actors involved. The genre of the play correspondingly segues from high drama to soap opera musicals, with intermittent touches of burlesque set to simultaneously delight and distract the audience from the painful reality hiding from plain view: that there is no other way to understand Yuri beyond the prism of one’s cultural productions. The couple’s knowledge of Russia and China is demonstrably limited as their poor renditions of the respective countries’ national anthems can testify. This lack of connection with Yuri – whose presence at times is a spectacle of manufactured vulgarity – is not a criticism. The play does not seek any idealistic closures and easy conclusions. Instead it draws attention to what is fundamentally wrong and yet fundamentally human. Empathy stops at the question – ‘Who is Yuri?’ – still unanswered that fittingly ends the play.
Yuri is undeniably an absolute pleasure to watch, with audience participation a notable feature in soliciting both understanding and complicity – definitely not to miss at this year’s Fringe. An original, unforgettable experience.